Less than a month after a very busy Thanksgiving travel period, Americans are again on the move despite escalating gas prices and increased hotel rates.

This holiday season, a 92.3 million Americans -- a 3.1 percent increase over last year -- plan to travel 50 miles or more, according to AAA's National Holiday Travel Survey, says AAA Southern New England - CT. Of this number, 75 percent plan to visit or stay with friends or family during the holiday travel period between Thursday, Dec. 23 and Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. The forecast is based on travelers' stated intentions and historical data as of mid-November.

In addition, of this overall number of 93 million Americans:

"¢ 93 percent or 85.7 million folks will travel by car -- a 3.2 percent increase over last year;

"¢ Another 3 percent or 2.75 million will fly -- a 2.8 percent increase over last year; and

"¢ The remaining 4 percent or 3.3 million will get away by train, bus or other mode of transportation, including one traveler who says he'll make a round-the-world journey by sleigh on the evening of Dec. 24.

During this holiday season, auto travelers also will find that gas prices on both the national and local levels continue to rise.

"¢ Nationally, gas prices are averaging $2.98 a gallon as of Dec. 20, 1 cent higher than last month and 39 cents higher than last year.

"¢ Statewide, gas prices are averaging $3.23 a gallon on Dec. 20, 9 cents higher than last month and 46 cents higher than last year. You may access daily fuel prices on the national and statewide levels at www.fuelgaugereport.com.

Despite higher gas prices in 2010, this is the fifth consecutive holiday period this year in which AAA has predicted a year-to-year increase in the number of travelers.

What's driving travel this year? An improved economic environment; and a pent-up demand after a year or two of limited travel growth are prompting more Americans to be on the move.

In other travel tidbits gleaned from AAA's National Holiday Survey:

Average travel distance is expected to be 1,052 round trip miles, up 33 percent compared to last year;

"¢ Median spending is expected to be $694, up 3.5 percent more than last year;

"¢ Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodges are expected to average $125 a night, up 5 percent compared to last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels are expected to pay an average $88 a night, 2 percent more than last year.

"¢ Airfares are expected to be 3 percent less than last year while weekend daily car rentals remain unchanged at an average of $50 a day.

AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight, a Bos-ton-based economic research and consulting firm that analyzes travel trends during the major holidays.

AAA Southern New England is a not-for-profit auto club with 42 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, providing more than 2.7 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance and auto-related services. In Connecticut, the Connecticut Motor Club division has more than 500,000 members in Litchfield, Fairfield, and New Haven Counties. Visit www.aaa.com.